Hi all,

I wanted to make a quick introduction and tell this community about a project that I am doing with National Geographic. I am a looooong time lurker on these forums and recently formally joined. I am looking forward to becoming a part of the community here.

So I am an engineer and part of the National Geographic Explorers program, based on some work I have been doing for a number of years now on identifying technological solutions for ocean protection, namely in stopping overfishing, illegal fishing, and poaching of our seas. You can see my profile here. I work on bringing modern technology and open source approaches to dealing with ocean protection. This work started in graduate school at Stanford University and I have gone on to work with a number of nonprofits and organizations since then. Most the stuff I focus on involved the development of hardware (low cost sensors, etc) and data management solutions (smartphone apps, online databases, etc.), as well as the identification of innovative approaches and technologies that work within the constraints of a certain community.

I am familiar with the great work done by the Conservation Drones organization, as well as some of the pilot projects that have taken place to prove the use of UAS as a means of combatting illegal poaching. We wanted to build on this work, with a focus on our oceans. So we started a project called SoarOcean that is operating under a small grant by National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. The focus will be on coastal communities where lack of resources have caused issues in protection of their waters and how inexpensive UAV platforms can change that (and allow them to document what is happening). The initial testing and development is happening (under a NOAA permit) in the marine protected areas off the coast of California, but evolving into some pilot opportunities in the Caribbean, Central America, and Western Africa. Progress will be posted on here, the National Geographic website, and the project webpage. You can also follow the project  on twitter, at @SoarOcean.

Anyways, so there will be more information to follow, but I wanted to make the introduction to the community. I've talked to Wayne Garris previously about use of the Techpod as one of the platforms to be tested. I also have an ArduPlane (albeit its the one with the faulty airspeed sensor that was recalled - I was on travel for much of last year and missed out on the recall) and the RVJET. I would love to get your thoughts on platforms or anything else that the experts think could help us be successful!


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  • Javier,

    That sounds interesting. I am always down to talk to some people working on great projects. I dont have funding for anything beyond the scope of this specific grant, all based on how things turn out in 2014. Thanks for the congrats though.



  • Hello,
    I work with small UAV with the group of biology, University of the Balearic Islands.
    I have a colleague who belongs to the Spanish army, And he's working on a civil project of a multicopter with a payload of 6 kg and a 3 hour flight. The operating ceiling is 20,000 feet.
    I've only seen part of the project. And he needs funding to continue.
    If interested I can talk to him about this.
    Ccongratulations on the project.

  • Thanks for the feedback Rai! Our mission objectives require more range and endurance than we could get out of multirotor but I am not opposed to building one as well (actually I would love to on my own personal time). I hope to document this pretty well on here as to help anyone else with a similar project.

  • Hi Shah,

    great project and looks like we are more or less dealing with similar "type" of ecosystem :). Coastal ... just my two cents Shah, at least from my work in the tropical coastal areas and I guess pretty much everywhere in coastal areas .), it's so windy :) so you might want to use also multirotor platform instead? But maybe in your case it's a bit different as well as I have to deal with small islands with fringing reefs.

    Great with the low cost Shah! :) and great that your project aim at providing actionable evidence! keep up the work and best wishes and hopefully somehow we can learn from, thus develop each other.



  • Rai,

    Interesting work you are doing there. I would love to read more about it if you have it documented anywhere.

    The SoarOcean project was scoped to have a focus on coastal fisheries, where near shore observation and low costs are important. There is not a plan currently to fly the whole expanse of the EEZ, but I think that some of the more professional offerings (Aerosonde, etc.) have shown that this is possible. As you mentioned, there are specifics whether or not fishing is done illegally but most of that has been worked out and identified in my research a few years back. SoarOcean is meant to help with the documenting now, which will hopefully help to create actionable evidence to deal with the networks you speak of.

    Thanks for the well wishes on the project. Please send along information if you have any available.



  • Ed,

    I would love to connect to talk about projects. I work with some people in the Santa Barbara area (mostly SeaSketch at the McClintock Lab at UCSB) so I may be coming up there in the next few months. Send me a message on here and perhaps we can connect via email.



  • Hi there Shah Selbe,

    Great project, congratulation! Me myself was a lurker as well of this forum for quite some months :). I am not trained as an engineer though, however the idea of using UAV for what I would call as social-ecological research (as you can see, I strongly believe that it is a complex interaction of both social and ecosystem that has somehow been shaping the ecosystem transformation) was already in my head for I think a year. Then thanks to great people here as well as in youtube that with my limited budget (no specific financial support to use UAV) I somehow managed to built my first cheap H-Copter with APM which can carry camera for aerial mapping and video. In my previous research I dealt lot with coral reef in the tropics (Indonesia) where, as you probably noticed, lots of things going on as well, from the bleaching to the alga bloom and "pollution" from the river mouths. So learning from people here (again thanks DIY Drones) I decided to buy a second hand CANON (cheap enough) and use CHDK with the idea to create some NDVI or NIR images which can be used for further analysis about coral reefs or river mouth. However, my research now requires me to deal more with rainforest and river in Borneo. For this reason, I have tried to build also a flying wing which more or less can carry the camera as well and can be operated in the "tough" area and also can be operated by local communities (of course safety and responsibility first).

    I just wonder about SoarOcean, ... do you plan to fly that far at the limit of ZEE for example? or you plan to use it at certain fishing ground? As I can imagined, it is not easy to "spot" illegal fishing (of course it depends on how you would define illegality). In my case, some people use cyanide to stunt the fish (I really used to think of using autopilot submarine actually). Second thought is, as far as I understand and based on my research experiences, illegality in species exploitation mostly have lots of things to do with "trading networks" and "prosecution insurance networks". So you might want to think on how these UAV might potentially provide some information/data which might be helpful to deal with this "network". Again, I believe .... community involvement in the whole process (of research, collecting data, etc) is important.

    Good luck Shah Selbe with SoarOcean. Looking forward for some news from your project. I'll try to post some of the result of cheap UAV I tried to develop when flying in Borneo.


  • Hi Shah. 

    I help measure ocean currents in the channel using HF Radar. http://www.sccoos.org/data/hfrnet/

    If you are ever in the Santa Barbara area. I would like to meetup and discuss your project. Sound interesting as I too am developing a UAV.


    Surface Current Mapping
  • Thanks Flying Buddha! Good luck with your project as well.

  • Thank you for the introduction.  I'm a geographer by trade and have been interested in this technology for some time too.  I live in Louisiana and in my spare time I have been experimenting with recording/documenting the progress of a few small marsh restoration projects. I have been flying a fixed (LOS and FPV) to capture my images and Im in the process of building a 3DR Y6, that will be used for shorter missions. My time and funding is limited, so my progress has not been as fast as I would like. Good luck with SoarOcean

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